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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor’s note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn’t tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor’s note:  Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.



Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
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Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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Trent Williams good to go vs. Eagles

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Washington left tackle Trent Williams is ready to play today against Philadelphia.

Although he was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, Williams is active and will start. That’s good news for starting quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Washington’s inactives are LB Keenan Robinson, LB Gabe Miller, DE Jason Hatcher, G Josh LeRibeus, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu and DB Kenny Okoro.

Philadelphia’s inactives are QB Nick Foles, S Jerome Couplin, LB Trent Cole, OL Julian Vandervelde, OL Dennis Kelly, WR Jeff Maehl and DE Taylor Hart.

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Decision to delay L.A. relocation came from teams, technically

LA Reuters

Potato, potahto.  Tomato, tomahto.  Los Angeles.  Los Angeleez.

Despite the words used, the NFL won’t be returning to L.A. in 2015.  Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Saturday that Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the three contenders to relocate — the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers — that no team will move to Los Angeles next year.  A league source tells PFT that, technically, the teams decided not to try to move next year.

It’s probably a distinction without a difference.  However, Schefter’s report creates the impression that Goodell dictated the outcome to the teams.  Given the year the league office has had, that’s not the most favorable message to send.

Even if, as we’re told, the decision was made by the teams, it’s quite possible if not likely that the teams made the decision only after it was made clear to them that an attempt to move to L.A. would not succeed in 2015.

Then there’s the reality that going against the wishes of the powers-that-be in 2015 could make it harder to secure approval to move in 2016.

Either way, L.A. won’t be getting one or more NFL teams in 2015.  But the signals are getting stronger and stronger for an L.A. relocation come 2016.

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Peyton Manning officially questionable for Monday night

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

Everyone expects Peyton Manning to start on Monday night in Cincinnati, but officially that’s no sure thing.

The Broncos listed Manning as questionable on the official injury report for Monday’s game against the Bengals. Manning has been getting treatment for a thigh injury and has also battled an illness.

If Manning can’t go, Brock Osweiler would get the nod. Osweiler played briefly — and played poorly — when Manning went to the locker room during Sunday’s win over the Chargers.

Obviously, it would be very, very bad news for the Broncos if there really is a risk that Manning can’t play. But from all indications, there really isn’t any question. Manning may be listed as questionable, but he will play.

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Browns put Tashaun Gipson on IR

Tashaun Gipson AP

The Browns will be without one of their key defensive players for the rest of the season.

The club announced Saturday it had placed free safety Tashaun Gipson on injured reserve. Gipson, whose six interceptions are tied for the NFL lead, suffered an MCL sprain in the Browns’ November 23 win at Atlanta.

A third-year pro from Wyoming, the 24-year-old Gipson has 12 interceptions for Cleveland since 2012.

Jim Leonhard has stepped into the lineup in Gipson’s absence.

To replace Gipson on the roster, the Browns promoted linebacker Scott Solomon from the practice squad. The 26-year-old Solomon has appeared in 20 regular-season games in three NFL seasons, including six with Tampa Bay earlier this year.

The 7-7 Browns are the lowest-seeded club still in playoff contention in the AFC. They play at Carolina on Sunday.

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Saturday one-liners

Miller Getty Images

The production of Dolphins RB Lamar Miller drops dramatically after his 10th carry of a game, from 5.4 average yards to 2.5.

A week after shutting down Aaron Rodgers, the Bills hope to similarly harass Oakland QB Derek Carr.

The Patriots are preparing for Percy Harvin with some of the same keys they used when preparing to face Randall Cobb.

Jets S Rontez Miles had emergency surgery on Thursday after being kicked in the shin during practice.

Ravens WR Jacoby Jones says it won’t be emotional to return to Houston and play the team that once cut him.

Former Bengals RB Corey Dillon is impressed with Bengals rookie RB Jeremy Hill.

C Alex Mack may be the only player definitely returning to the Browns in 2015.

Steelers players are lobbying for LB Lawrence Timmons to make it to the Pro Bowl.

The Texans will get a good look on Sunday at a running back they maybe shouldn’t have let get away.

Maligned in May, the Colts’ quintet of draft picks has done well.

If you’re among the many who passed on Thursday night’s game, here’s what the win revealed about the Jaguars.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt summarizes his first season with the team in three words:  “It’s not fun.”

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders has a simple approach when returning punts — get at least 10 yards, making it like a first down on offense.

Former Chiefs Pro Bowl OL John Alt is helping LT Eric Fisher.

The Raiders may be shorthanded at cornerback with Buffalo coming to town.

So what does the Chargers’ defense need to do to win some games?  Defensive coordinator John Pagano makes it as simple as possible:  “Play better.”

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant could be the key to beating Indianapolis.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin wants WR Odell Beckham to be like LeBron James.

A reduction in touches for RB LeSean McCoy is fueling speculation that he won’t be back with the Eagles in 2015.

How bad is Washington’s offensive line?  Really bad.

The decision to start Bears QB Jimmy Clausen is creating no buzz in Halas Hall.

Joique Bell quietly has become the No. 1 running back for the Lions.

Here’s a great look at how the Packers are trying to slow down great receivers at a time when the rules are helping them.

Vikings FB Jerome Felton knows he likely won’t be back next year.

Falcons DT Ra’Shede Hageman realizes that he’ll need to earn the trust of the coaching staff in order to get more playing time.

Panthers DT Star Lotulelei is struggling in his second season.

With free agency looming, Saints RB Mark Ingram has picked a good year to be on pace for his first 1,000-yard season.

The win the renewal of the Bay of Pigs rivalry, the Buccaneers will need to be able to run the ball effectively.

The Cardinals joined the NFL in 1920; Sunday night’s game is the biggest regular-season contest in franchise history.

Rams S E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round draft pick in May, has had a strong rookie season.

Saturday’s game could be the next to last in San Francisco for 49ers RB Frank Gore.

A big test is coming Sunday night for Seahawks rookie OT Justin Britt.

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Joe Thomas downplays charges of discharging manure

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

A day after he was accused of environmental violations including discharging manure into a wetland, Browns tackle Joe Thomas said it was no BS.

Actually, it was a much smaller variety of S.

“I know it sounds horrific when you see the list of violations, but in the end it’s rabbit turds here,” Thomas told Steven Verburg of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Thomas was cited by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for some irregularities on a farm he owns there. Among the violations are damming a navigable waterway, dredging a spring-fed pond, tearing down a barn without a permit and most spectacularly, the previously mentioned discharge of manure.

He could face $10,000 a day fines, but Thomas said he’s meeting with DNR officials to make sure he’s in compliance.

“When you read that list, you’d think I was the worst person in the world, like I put a two-lane bridge over the Mississippi River,” Thomas said. “In reality, it’s all kind of interrelated and very small.

“I don’t want to say anything to you that would make their side look bad,”

The property is described as a few hundred feet from the Blue River, which is apparently a Class II trout stream. While dropping a load of brown trout into that waterway would obviously disturb the ecosystem, Thomas said his intentions for the property were pure.

“My whole idea was to make it a fish and wildlife paradise like it used to be,” he said. “I don’t want to get into the specifics of every little violation. The bottom line is I hired a couple contractors to help with the cleanup project and it was just not knowing that you needed permits for certain things that resulted in the violations.”

Unless one of those contractors turns out to be Najeh Davenport, it sounds like Thomas is doing everything he can to make sure this doesn’t turn into a big stink.

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Report: Executives suggest Bears could have to attach a draft pick to move Cutler

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Getty Images

If the Bears want to move quarterback Jay Cutler in the offseason, would they have to swap draft picks with the acquiring club to get the deal done?

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “several NFL executives” have indicated the Bears might have to trade draft selections to close any Cutler deal, given the guaranteed money on Cutler’s contract.

The idea of “sweetening the pot” to close a Cutler trade is something PFT’s Mike Florio suggested after the quarterback’s benching. Were this indeed required to make a deal, it would speak to Chicago’s lack of leverage.

In the scenario suggested by Schefter, an acquiring team would get Cutler and a higher pick, with the Bears getting a lower pick and salary-cap relief in return. As Schefter notes, any trade can’t be an out-and-out giveaway; the Bears would have to receive something in return, per NFL rules.

How Bears ownership proceeds with coach Mark Trestman and G.M. Phil Emery at season’s end figures to be a primary factor in any future decisions on Cutler. A new coach/G.M. combination might not have any ties to Cutler and could be able to cut the cord without anguish.

The more interesting question is whether Emery would be willing to make such a move. The decision to sign Cutler to a lucrative deal last January looks dubious, with Cutler’s play not coming close to expectations. Moving Cutler and a draft pick is the stuff of management nightmares, especially with the Bears in desperate need of youthful reinforcements throughout the defense. The club’s spending in the most recent free agent period produced mixed results, with defensive end Willie Young proving a bargain but defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston not producing as much as hoped, though illness slowed Allen and a knee injury ended Houston’s season early.

In short, the Bears aren’t in a position to be giving away draft picks. And have we mentioned the franchise again might be looking for a quarterback? Oh yes, that.

If Bears fans are walking around looking like they’ve bitten down on all the world’s lemons, they cannot be blamed. Soon, the snow will come, the salt trucks will come out, the sky will be gray and the taxes will still be high. But the Cubs look like they’ve figured it out, and the Bulls are flank-steak tough. Look, Chicagoans are used to QB uncertainty.

Doesn’t mean they have to like it, though. And they really won’t like it if that draft pick goes out the door with Cutler.

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49ers could be looking for young offensive specialist to succeed Harbaugh

McDaniels Getty Images

With all the talk about Jim Harbaugh’s future, hardly any time has been spent on the question of who will replace him in San Francisco.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the team is expected to look for a young offensive specialist to take over the team.  Mort specifically mentioned Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

The last time the job was open, the 49ers tried the opposite approach.  As Bill Parcells discloses in his new book, the 49ers tried to hire the then-69-year-old defensive specialist to coach the team in 2011.

From 2009 to 2010, McDaniels coached the Broncos to an 11-17 record.  In a stint perhaps best known for the selection of Tim Tebow with a first-round pick, a 5-17 slide after a 6-0 start greased the skids for McDaniels’ termination with four games left in his second season.

But McDaniels has recovered nicely.  Despite coach Bill Belichick’s background as a defensive guru, it’s Belichick and not McDaniels who has gotten the credit for a masterful run of offensive game plans (with the exception of the loss at Lambeau) since the team fell to 2-2 after a Monday night blowout in Kansas City.

It has been believed that 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has the early inside track to the job, in large part because Tomsula was pegged to take over for Harbaugh if he’d been traded to the Browns in February.  With the offensive side of the ball needing a kick in the pants, maybe the change of plans makes sense.

The 49ers also will be looking for someone who can get along well with G.M. Trent Baalke, who somehow has escaped scrutiny for the team’s collapse in 2014.  If, as it appears, Baalke will be back, a far bigger factor than X’s and O’s will be whether the new coach can work and play well with his boss.

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Arians: Seahawks have a wishbone running game and a great QB

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Seahawks lead the league in rushing but aren’t just a rushing team, which makes them a pain for opposing defenses.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians compared preparing for the Seahawks to preparing to face an old-school Oklahoma or Nebraska wishbone running offense. Except those teams couldn’t beat opponents through the air the way the Seahawks can.

“Trying to get ready for them is basically like trying to get ready for a wishbone team back in college — with a great quarterback,” Arians said.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t mostly (or even primarily) a running quarterback, and yet he’s been by far the most effective running quarterback in the NFL this year. Wilson has 106 carries for 754 yards and five touchdowns this season, leading all quarterbacks in all three categories and putting him more than 300 yards ahead of any other quarterback in the league. Wilson also has six runs of more than 20 yards, best among all quarterbacks, and is the only quarterback in the league with more than one run longer than 40 yards. Wilson is on pace to finish this season with more than 3,300 passing yards and more than 800 rushing yards, a passing/running combination that only Randall Cunningham (who passed for 3,466 yards and ran for 942 yards in 1990) has accomplished before.

The Cardinals will have a tough time stopping Wilson. Even worse, they’re stuck with third-stringer Ryan Lindley as their own quarterback against the Seahawks’ ferocious defense. If Arians can find a way to win this one, they could cancel the coach of the year vote and hand him the award on Sunday.

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2016 becomes the target for an L.A. move

keep-calm-im-not-moving

When the Chargers announced earlier this week that they won’t be moving out of San Diego in 2015, the message was clear:  If the Chargers are willing to announce now that they won’t try to move to L.A. in 2015, no one will be moving to L.A. in 2015.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Commissioner Roger Goodell made it known this week internally that no teams will be moving to Los Angeles in 2015.  It remains possible, if not likely, that someone will move to L.A. in 2016.

Sure, someone can still apply for relocation in early 2015. But good luck getting 24 owners to approve the move.

The Chargers, as we’ve previously explained, are better positioned than the Rams and Raiders to satisfy the terms of the NFL’s relocation policy, since the Chargers have been trying for 14 years to get a new stadium in San Diego.  The extra year also potentially helps the Rams and Raiders build a stronger case that they’ve tried diligently to resolve a bad stadium situation in their current location before trying to move to a new city.

It’s believed that up to two teams eventually will move to Los Angeles.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the powers-that-be in San Diego, Oakland, and/or St. Louis take full advantage of what could be their last opportunity to find a solution more viable than hoping that their team becomes the odd man out in a game of L.A. musical chairs.

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NFL Weather Watch — Week 16

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Those waiting for one of those patented late-season “weather games” will likely have to wait another week.

The expected conditions for Week 16’s outdoor games are relatively favorable for the penultimate weekend of the year, per forecast data from WeatherUnderground.com. No game has more than a 30 percent chance of precipitation (Packers-Buccaneers in Tampa).

The strongest winds are expected in Lions-Bears, but Chicago brought in Jay Cutler for games just like this, so worry not about the home team’s ability to deal with a little wind!

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of conditions expected in all 10 outdoor games. Unless otherwise noted, kickoff time is 1 p.m. Eastern:

SATURDAY

Philadelphia at Washington (4:30 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 36 degrees.

Wind: Eight mph out of the west-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Eight percent.

San Diego at San Francisco (8:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 59 degrees.

Wind: One mph out of the west-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Ten percent.

SUNDAY

Cleveland at Carolina (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 47 degrees.

Wind: Three mph out of the east.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Twenty-six percent.

Detroit at Chicago

Temperature: 37 degrees.

Wind: Twelve mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Eight percent.

Minnesota at Miami

Temperature: 79 degrees.

Wind: Nine mph out of the southeast.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Six percent.

New England at N.Y. Jets

Temperature: 41 degrees.

Wind: Five mph out of the north-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Fourteen percent.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh

Temperature: 35 degrees.

Wind: Two mph out of the southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Five percent.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay

Temperature: 74 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Thirty percent.

Buffalo at Oakland (4:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 62 degrees.

Wind: Three mph out of the west-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Eleven percent.

MONDAY

Denver at Cincinnati (8:30 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 44 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the south-southeast.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Twenty-two percent.

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Julio Jones’ availability hinges on pre-game workout, again

Julio Getty Images

Last week, the Falcons waited until Sunday morning to decide whether receiver Julio Jones would play despite a hip injury.  This week, it’ll be the same routine.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jones’ availability for Sunday’s showdown with the Saints will hinge on the Sunday morning pre-game workout.

Obviously, he wants to play.  (Rarely if ever does an NFL player pull a Lee Corso with a key game coming up.)  And the team desperately need Jones.

In his last two games played, Jones generated 448 receiving yards, with a whopping 259 yards coming in a Monday night loss to the Packers.  Between the performances with Jones and the team’s struggles without him, the fourth-year wideout from Alabama is laying the foundation for a major payday at some point during the 2015 offseason.

Coupled with the presence of quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ head coaching job becomes perhaps the most attractive of any that woud be available in the upcoming hiring cycle.  Whether the job actually is available depends in part on beating the Saints, with or without Jones on the field.

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Dalton struggles on the big stage

Dalton Getty Images

Andy Dalton has something in common with Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe.  Both have trouble performing when other people are watching.

In prime-time and playoff games, Dalton has a career record of 2-9.  He’ll get a chance to change that on Monday night against the Broncos and, possibly, next Sunday night against the Steelers.  (The Week 17 Sunday night game will be determined after Week 16; there’s a chance the league will choose Bengals at Steelers.)

In those 11 games played at night and/or in the postseason, Dalton has eight touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, and five lost fumbles.

In fairness to Dalton, the problems extend beyond one player.

“I don’t know why we haven’t played as good on defense in those games, but we need to,” coach Marvin Lewis said this week, via ESPN.com.  “I don’t know why we haven’t played as good on offense, or why we’ve given up on a play on special teams in those games, but we need to do better.”

Defensive end Wallace Gilberry has a theory:  “I guess we’re afraid of the dark.”

On Monday night, they’ll get a chance to prove that they aren’t.  Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe’s bladder could be depending on it.

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Chargers say Philip Rivers’s injuries won’t affect him today

Philip Rivers AP

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be playing through back and rib injuries today against the 49ers, but the team doesn’t expect that to be a problem.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Rivers looked good in the Chargers’ last practice of the week and will be good to go at San Francisco.

Philip had an outstanding day,” McCoy said, via U-T San Diego. “A ball did not hit the ground in all the throws he made today. Philip was Philip, so he’ll be ready to roll.”

Rivers, who has started 142 straight games, said he wouldn’t miss a week of practice either.

“I hate missing at all during the week, and to not practice at all, I can’t even imagine doing that,” Rivers said. “So yeah, it was good. It went well.”

With the Chargers clinging to slim playoff hopes, they need to win today. Which means they need Rivers to look as good against the 49ers as he did in practice this week.

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Harbaugh reportedly “torn” between NFL, Michigan

Harbaugh Getty Images

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t talking about the possibility that he’ll coach Michigan or any other football team.  Someone close to him is talking a blue streak now, Jack.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Harbaugh’s “family and friends have been encouraging him to take the Michigan HC job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL, per sources close to the situation.”

The report doesn’t specify the full universe family members who are urging Harbaugh to abandon California for Ann Arbor.  It’s widely believed, and it’s been consistently reported, that Harbaugh’s wife doesn’t want to leave the Bay Area.

The tension arises from the fact that Harbaugh wants to wait and see which NFL opportunities emerge and Michigan needs to know sooner than later whether to move on to Plan B.  However, Schefter points out that Harbaugh’s agent “has a good sense of realistic NFL options already.”

In part, this seems to be about getting Harbaugh’s realistic NFL options and Harbaugh’s current employer to develop a discreet understanding as to how the dominoes will fall after the regular season ends, with the team that will eventually trade for Harbaugh:  (1) firing its current head coach; (2) complying with the Rooney Rule; (3) striking a deal with the 49ers for permission to negotiate with Harbaugh; and (4) working out a contract with him.  Those dominoes all need to be properly arranged now, so that Harbaugh will know whether to wait for the inevitable NFL scenario to play itself out.

Leverage remains a key factor in this dance.  Schefter’s report seems to be a deliberate leak aimed at fleshing out Harbaugh’s NFL options now, so that Harbaugh will know what’s behind Door No. 1 before he tells Michigan thanks but no thanks for the second time in four years.

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